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BY Jim Cosgrove
MURCIA, Spain — When it comes to the media and communications, the public wants consistency in what journalists say and how they live; in a word, they want “ethics,” according to Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
Archbishop Foley spoke with Zenit news service during the second international congress on the Church and the media, held at the Catholic University of St. Anthony in Murcia, Spain, May 15-17.
The American archbishop opened the meeting with a talk on the “Ethical and Moral Dimension of the Means of Social Communication.”
In your address, you said public opinion asks journalists and the media in general for truth and values. Can it be said that it is precisely ethics, and not so much the technology involved, that makes the difference between one medium and another?
Today there are many differences between the different media, and there are also different levels of professional quality. But people perceive the consistency between the communicator's words and life. I think there is profound appreciation for people — not only in the world of communication but also in political life — who are consistent in the values they preach and those they live.
You gave Pope John Paul II as an example in this sense.
This is what gives force to his communication. When he delivers an address and puts aside the text he has prepared, people perceive that he is obviously a consistent person, a person with a life that is completely integrated between values and actions. He is a completely honest, sincere man.
What should be distinct about a Catholic journalist? What should be his added value?
He should certainly be a person of truth. This without a doubt. But I think that a Catholic journalist should have a background of formation in philosophy, theology and history. In this way, he can put in a proper context — historical, philosophical, theological — everything he analyzes.
When I studied at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, there were courses in economics, politics and education. When they gave me an award some years later, I told them they should have a special course in religion.
They instituted one and they now have a department of religion within the school of journalism. They realize that religion is an essential part of human life and that an intelligent journalist should know the world of religion in order to write an intelligent and comprehensible report.